Posted 07 July 2008 - 04:32 PM
Time to chip in my review.
Some background, I have been going to Ray's for several years now. I live in Centreville so getting to Arlington is a bit of a hike so I don't go as often as I would like. Whenever I get a "birthday" dinner, Ray's the Steaks is always my choice. When we had our inagural draft for Nationals season tickets, we had it at Ray's. The Post covered it and I even got my picture in the paper.
Fast forward to Monday. I find out that Ray's Hell Burger has opened. I immediately tell the wife that we need to go. Ahh, but there is one small complication. We have an infant at home and therefore we don't get out much. The trip to Ray's Hell Burger would have to be put on hold.
Jump ahead to yesterday. The day before my wife's return to work. I ask my wife if I can take the boy out of the house so she can get some stuff done and get ready for work without worrying about the baby. Normally I take him on a long long walk, but he had already spent 2 hours in the stroller that day and my legs weren't going to be able to handle another 2 hours. I know. I'll take him on a car ride.
Now everyone who's had an infant with colic knows that a car ride can work wonders in getting them calmed down. The key though is that the car has to keep moving. Its like the movie Speed. The baby has to go 55 or he blows up. Traffic lights are hell with this so once I get out with him I head to the interstate.
Well, if I'm on the interstate I can go east or west on 66. I figure I'd go east. Oh darn, I drove all the way to Arlington. Oh well, I may as well get something to eat. Where could I get something in Arlington.... Where....
So there I am, in the parking lot by Ray's. Unfortunately parking was at its normal premium and I had to park down the hill. I took the sleeping baby out of the car and hiked the two blocks to Ray's Hell Burger. I actaully walked past it the first time, the restraunt is so unassuming. For a moment I feared that this was some cruel hoax that the internet played on me. Curse you cruel internet! How could you toy with my emotions like that!? Fortunately I doubled back and found it.
I could already tell that Ray's Hell Burger was getting a lot of the spill off from Ray's the Steaks. 2 hour wait for a table? No problem. Maybe a burger will tide you over.
There was a line but it moved well. Someone actually came out from behind the counter to take my order. Nice easy process.
As I waited, the place really started to fill up and all the tables were full. Michael (I'm pretty sure it was him) stopped by to see the baby and give me grief for wearing a Five Guys t-shirt (A poor wardrobe choice, I admit). It took about 10 minutes and my burgers were ready. Good thing too since the baby had finally woke up and was starting to express his displeasure. I grabbed the baby, grabbed the burgers, went down the hill.
Burger A- My wife's burger
Grilled, Recommended w/ grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and mayo. Cooked perfectly. One of the highlights of no longer being pregnant is my wife can get burgers that are not burned to a crisp. The toppings were delicious, especially the mushrooms. When my wife found out where I had gone I got the "You drove all the way to Arlington?" bit. One bite of the burger and all was forgotten. She really really enjoyed it.
Burger B- My son's burger. Unfortunately since he is three months old and lacks teeth I had to help him out by eating it for him. The things parents have to put up with.
Au Poivre, Recommended w/ bacon, blue cheese, grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and mayo. Cooked perfectly. Recommended may be too rare for some people. Not me. The cracked pepper was not overpowering, I actually barely noticed it. There was much less than you would normally see on a steak the burger had more of a sprinkle.
You could tell that a high quality of meat was used. It actually tasted that someone took a steak from next door, put it through the grinder and put it on a bun. Unfortunatly the burger came without most of its toppings, only the cheese. Having tasted the toppings from my wife's burger, I could tell I was missing out.
Burger C - My Burger
Grilled, recommended, w/ bacon, the $4 aged Amish cheddar, grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and mayo. Cooked well done (it's an art, not a science). It was a testament to the quality of the meat that even well done, the burger was still juicy. I admit the aged Amish cheddar was an impulse buy but damn was it good and worth the 4 bucks. I actually snuck a bite of this one in the car before I drove back to Centreville. Unfortunately this one also came without most of its toppings as well (missing the peppers, onions and mushrooms). Again, having tasted my wife's burger, I was missing out.
If you ask my wife, everything was great. The one burger that had to be right was perfect. Me, I was mildly let down simply because I had built the trip up in my mind. After reading the reviews I was expecting a perfect experience but only got a pretty good one. The two burgers I ordered both had problems both of which can be chalked up to the place being mobbed and in its first week of operation.
If the crowds are any indication, this place should be able to print money. Especially once word of its existence reached a wider audience. I can only hope that one day Michael will start to offer the blue cheese sauce or the brandy mushroom sauce used at RTS as a topping (I could bathe in that stuff.) To the poster who wondered whether or not the burgers travelled well I can report that they travelled to Centreville just fine with buns intact. We actually didn't have any problems with the buns disintegrating.
I close this post with some advice. If you travelled 25 miles for some burgers, double check them before you leave. Oh yeah, and never, ever wear a Five Guys t-shirt to another man's burger joint.